Francis Fukuyama has drawn an interesting comparison between the once US Presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. In his view, both are populists with a broad appeal to low income white males. (“American Political Decay or Renewal?” by Francis Fukuyama, Foreign Affairs, July/August 2016, pg. 58.) Whether they be to the right or left of the political spectrum, these men share the view they have been left behind in the current economy and fare worse than minorities whom they see as benefitting from federal assistance programs. (Blog 5/20/16)
Adding to their woes is a global market, automation and a porous border that allows illegal immigrants to compete for unskilled jobs. While globalization may have lifted millions of third world workers out of poverty, the American industrial worker has lost earning power. Programs intended to transform a 55-year-old factory employee into a computer programmer have been poorly designed and have largely failed. (Ibid, pg 64.)
Fukuyama offers suggestions that could slow down the pace of globalization and provide a smoother transition into a service economy, but I suspect that horse has left the barn. His other ideas are still doable. If we lowered the corporate tax rate, for example, multinationals, that have $2 trillion in cash deposited outside the united States, might be encouraged to bring some money home. The revenue could be used to create jobs to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure. Further, as uncertainty is an anathema to business, Congress needs to reform itself. To many ”veto points ” exist where elected representatives can put holds on bills or filibuster them, bringing the government to a halt. (Ibid pg. 68.)
Fukuyama’s recommendations aren’t new. Almost everyone agrees we need to upgrade our infrastructure. Most would agree we should recapture the money multinationals have sheltered abroad. And few would deny Congress too often has ground to a halt. What we lack is a common will. In the past Labor gave workers a unified voice. That voice has been weakened by a diminishing working class and by the ease with which money and jobs can be shifted overseas. What’s necessary is for Labor to get off its knees. We need a new fanfare for the common man.